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ECO Dictionary Ecology and GREEN Living Terms
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abiotic component
adaptive behavior
In behavioral ecology, any behavior which contributes to an individual's reproductive success and is thus subject to the forces of natural selection.

See atmosphere.

allee effect
A concept in population ecology that describes the positive relationship between the size of a given population and its growth.


animal behaviour
See ethology.

applied ecology
A branch of ecology which uses ecological principles and insights to solve environment-related problems. It includes agroecology and conservation biology.

aquatic plant
A vascular plant adapted to living in salt water or fresh water aquatic environments.

area effect
The biogeographic hypothesis that larger islands are able to support more species than smaller ones.

Earth's atmosphere is composed of gases and water which are retained by Earth's gravity and help to retain heat and reflect UV radiation.

A major sub-field of ecology which studies the dynamics of populations and the ways in which they interact with the environment. Also called population ecology.


behavioral ecology
A branch of ecology which studies the ecological and evolutionary basis of animal behavior, mainly at the level of the individual.

Capable of decaying through the action of living organisms.

Diversity among and within plant and animal species in a given environment.

The science that studies the effects of biota on global chemistry and on the cycles of matter and energy that transport Earth's chemical components in time and space.

biogeochemical cycle
A pathway through which a chemical element or molecule moves through the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere.

biogeographic realm
See ecozone.

The study of the geographic distribution of species on Earth.

A non-native species.

biological dispersal
The movement of organisms from their birth site to their breeding site or from one breeding site to another.

biological magnification
The increase in concentration of a chemical substance in the tissues of organisms comprising successively higher levels in a food chain.

biological organization

The sum of all living organisms in a given area.

biomass pyramid
A graph that illustrates the productivity within a trophic level Also called an ecological pyramid.

The total complex of biotic communities occupying and characterizing a particular area.

The global sum of all ecosystems on Earth.

The total collection of organisms of a geographic region or a time period.

biotic component
biotic potential

The maximum achievable rate of increase of a population in a given area under ideal conditions.

boreal forest
Forest areas of the northern temperate zone, mostly consisting of conifers. Also called taiga in Siberia



An assemblage of various organisms living in the same environment.

community ecology
A branch of ecology which studies the interactions between species within an ecological community. Also called synecology.

Organisms from the same or from different species competing with each other for food, living conditions, reproductive success, or any limited resource; the most adapted individuals come out on top and thus survive and reproduce.

competitive exclusion principle
A biological rule which states that two species cannot coexist in the same environment if they are competing for exactly the same resource.

coniferous forest
One of the main terrestrial biomes, culminating in the taiga.

conservation biology
The study of Earth's biodiversity which aims at protecting natural habitats and the plant and animal species living in them.

An organism, usually an animal, that feeds on plants or other animals. Compare heterotroph.

The process by which organisms work together for mutual benefit.

coral reef

courtship display
Ritual social behavior between possible mates.

cryospherevThe combined portions of Earth's surface where water is in solid form as ice, including sea ice, lake ice, river ice, snow, glaciers, ice caps, ice sheets, and frozen ground such as permafrost. There is significant overlap with the hydrosphere


deciduous forest

A forest containing deciduous plants and existing where temperatures are mild and rainfall is abundant

deciduous plant
A plant that sheds all or nearly all its leaves each year

To rot or decay as a result of being broken down by microorganisms

Organisms such as bacteria and fungi that decompose dead plants and animals;

see the food chain

The stripping away of trees. Practices or processes that result in the conversion of forested lands for non-forest uses.

A land area that receives less than 10 inches (25 cm) of precipitation a year, that loses more water through evaporation than it gains from precipitation, and that has high summer temperatures

The temperature at which gaseous water condenses into visible water vapor, fog or clouds

the distance from one end to another through the center; as the diameter of the earth

To lessen the strength of a material by mixing it with another material, usually water

dirty fallout
Air pollutants dropped by prevailing winds

To spread to another location

the measurement from one point to another


Involves breaking an item down into its component elements or materials. Once the constituent elements or materials are recovered, they are reused if possible but usually as a lower-value product.

drip irrigation
The practice of spraying water directly on the base of plants so that less water is needed to help them grow

An extended period of unusually low rainfall

dry deposits
Air pollutants that quickly fall to the ground without combining with moisture


the planet where we live; see planet, and planetary facts

Special day to honor earth and going green usually with celebrations and awareness. See earthday

earth week
Usually around April 22. Week of Earth Awareness and activities. See PP Environmental Earth Calendar

earth 911 same as earth sos
The urgency to start taking care of our world for future generations

ecological community
The interaction of living organisms with their environment

A scientist who studies organisms and their environment

The study of living things in their environment

A distinct area that combines biotic communities and the abiotic environments with which they interact

The area where two or more ecosystems merge

The height above sea level

emergent layer
A forest's upper layer, produced by the tallest trees

The release of a substance (usually a gas when referring to the subject of climate change) into the atmosphere.

In immediate danger of becoming extinct

enhanced greenhouse effect
The concept that the natural greenhouse effect has been effected by emissions of greenhouse gases.

The natural surroundings of an organism, which include everything, living and nonliving, that affects the organism

environmental impact
The result of our negative and positive actions on the environment.

An organism that has a short life cycle

A plant that grows on another plant in a relation ship of commensalism

The imaginary boundary that divides the earth in half north and south

To spend the summer in a sleeplike condition of partial or total inactivity

To change from a liquid to a gas as a result of being heated

A plant whose needles or leaves remain green throughout the year

The dying out of a species of any living thing; the complete disappearance of a species from the earth, forever

extreme weather events
Scientists are worried by the increasing frequency and intensity of hurricanes, flooding, drought, as well as the loss of drinking water sources, reduction in productive farm land and increasing geographical spread of infectious diseases such as malaria.


All the animals in a particular area

To join male sperm with a female egg

first-order consumers
Animals that eat plants

floor layer
A forest's sixth and bottom layer, made up of lichens and mosses growing in the remains of fallen trees, branches, and leaves

All the plants in a particular area

Carbon-fluorine compounds that often contain other elements such as hydrogen, chlorine, or bromine. Common fluorocarbons include chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and perfluorocarbons (PFCs).

Matter in a gas or liquid state


food chain (see it)

A series of organisms linked together in the order in which they feed on each other

food web
All of the interlinked food chains in a community or an ecosystem

A biome whose main vegetation consists of large groups of trees that usually grow close enough together that their tops touch, shading the ground

fossil fuel
Any deposit of fossil materials, such as petroleum, natural gas, or coal, that can be burned to produce energy

Traces of the remains of prehistoric animals and plants


Items that are discarded also waste. Garbage often refers to food disgarded and other items to trash or waste.

eothermal energy
Heat energy from within the earth

The soils, sediments, and rock layers of the Earth's crust, both continental and beneath the ocean floors.

worldwide learn about your world

global warming / climate change
The terms climate change and global warming are often used to mean the same thing. Global warming emphasises the rise in average temperatures. see global warming

A biome whose main vegetation is grass or grasslike plants

go green
Living a green lifestyle and caring for earth. recycle, recuse, reduce. learn more at earth matters

A structure, usually made of glass or clear plastic, that provides a protected, controlled environment for raising plants indoors

greenhouse effect
The effect of certain gasses that trap heat in the atmosphere and raise the temperature of the planet. see greenhouse effect

greenhouse gases
Atmospheric gases, mostly carbon dioxide and water vapor, that trap the warmth from the sun, just as glass traps warmth in a greenhouse

Organism living on or in a host; a parasite


The physical place, such as a desert, forest, or single tree, where a plant or animal lives and which is usually described by its physical features; also the natural home of a community.

Compounds containing either chlorine, bromine or fluorine and carbon.

hazardous materials
solid or liquid materials involving or exposing one to risk (as of loss or harm)

Animals that eat only plants; see food chain

herb layer
A forest's fifth layer, found close to the ground and containing plants such as flowers, grasses, ferns, seedling trees, and shrubs

To spend the winter in a sleeplike condition of partial or total inactivity

An organism on or in which a parasite lives and whose support of the parasite often leads to its own injury

hot desert
A desert with hot daytime temperatures for most of the year

Substances containing only hydrogen and carbon. Fossil fuels are made up of hydrocarbons.

liquid of earth


ice core
A cylindrical section of ice removed from a glacier or an ice sheet in order to study climate patterns of the past.

To burn to ashes

The amount of solar energy that reaches the earth

A material that does not easily gain or lose energy

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
The IPCC was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organisation and the United Nations Environmental Programme.



Underwater forests of tall, brown algae that grow in cool coastal waters

kyoto protocol
Sponsored by the United Nations, the Kyoto Protocol is an agreement between countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. It was established in Japan in 1997 but didn't become international law until 2004.


Land waste disposal site in which waste is generally spread in thin layers, compacted, and covered with a fresh layer of soil each day

A mixture of rainwater and other liquids that comes from garbage

flowing freely like water

A combination of two organisms, fungus and green algae, that live in a relationship of mutualism

live earth
Concert for the earth held in majopr cities worldwide.


Molten, or melted, rock within the earth

the part of the earth between the crust and the core

marine life
Plants and animals of the ocean

A scientist who studies the weather

methane (CH4)
A hydrocarbon that is a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential most recently estimated at 23 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Living organisms so small they can only be seen through a microscope

midnight zone
The area of the ocean beneath the twilight zone, extending from 3,000 feet (1,000 m) down to the ocean floor, where only about 1 percent of marine life can survive

To move from one place to another

Mitigation refers to activities which try to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere;

The smallest part of a substance that has all the characteristics of the substance

A biome of high ground with various types of vegetation depending on the elevation

municipal solid waste (MSW)
Residential solid waste and some non-hazardous commercial, institutional, and industrial wastes. This material is generally sent to municipal landfills for disposal.


natural gas
Underground deposits of gases consisting of 50 to 90 percent methane (CH4) and small amounts of heavier gaseous hydrocarbon compounds such as propane (C3H8) and butane (C4H10).

natural resources
things from nature; see earth matters

Animals, such as fish and whales, that move independently of water currents between the bottom and surface of the ocean

Having a pH of 7 and thus being neither acidic nor basic

The location and role or job for which a species is well suited within its community, including its habitat, what it eats, its activities, and its interaction with other living things

Where leaves grow from a plant stem

Not able to be consumed and/or broken down by biological organisms. Nonbiodegradable substances include plastics, aluminum, and many chemicals used in industry and agriculture.

nonrenewable resource
Resources exist in the earth that are non renewable because we are taking them away and using them at a much faster rate than they were formed. Examples are copper, aluminum, coal, and oil.

Northern Hemisphere
The area of the earth above the equator

Northern temperate zone
The region between latitudes 23.5¡N and 66.5¡N.

nuclear energy
Energy produced from changes in atomic nuclei

The heavy centers of atoms

To be nourished:
the process by which living things or organisms take in and utilize food material.


The largest bodies of water on earth

Offsetting involves calculating the total amount of carbon dioxide that will be emitted from a certain activity, for example plane travel or a conference call.

Animals that eat both plants and animals

All living things, and products that are uniquely produced by living things, such as wood, leather, and sugar. 2. All chemical compounds or molecules, natural or synthetic, that contain carbon atoms as an integral part of their structure.

All living things, including people, plants, animals, bacteria, and fungi

An atmospheric gas made up of two oxygen atoms that is necessary for respiration

oxygen cycle
The recycling of oxygen-containing gases between plants and animals

A form of oxygen made up of three oxygen atoms that forms the ozone layer.

ozone cycle
The ongoing process by which ozone breaks down and re-forms in the ozone layer

ozone depletion
Damage to the ozone layer

ozone layer
Scattered molecules of ozone gas that collect in the upper atmosphere of the earth in a layer that shields the earth from excessive ultraviolet light


An organism that lives on or in a host organism and that gets its food from or at the expense of its host

A relationship in which one organism, a parasite, secures its nourishment by living on or inside a host organism at the expense of its host

A layer of permanently frozen soil underground. An important feature of a tundra

The unit of measure for determining whether a solution is acidic, basic, or neutral

pH scale
The scale, ranging from 0 to 14, used to measure the pH of a solution.

The process by which plants use light energy trapped by chlorophyll to change carbon dioxide and water into food

Plant plankton

Small to microscopic organisms that live near the ocean's surface and are carried along by the currents. Animal plankton are called zooplankton, and plant plankton are called phytoplankton

Substances that destroy the purity of air, water, or land

A tiny, tubelike marine animal of which live coral is made, one end of which is attached to the sea bottom, to rocks, or to one another and the opposite end of which is a mouth surrounded by fingerlike, stinging tentacles

Organisms of the same species living together in a specific area; also the total count of individuals in a specific area, such as the population of a town, see the world population

Water that returns to the earth as rain, hail, sleet, or snow

precycle, precycling
Conciousness about what you buy and use and choosing products based on less waste reduction. learn about precycling

An animal that hunts and kills other animals for food

prevailing winds
Winds that blow consistently from one direction

Organisms (specifically, plants) that can produce their own food, see food chain



Energy transfer in the form of electromagnetic waves or particles that release energy when absorbed by an object.

To use again; see Planetpals recycle center

Collecting and reprocessing a resource so it can be used again.see Planetpals recycle center

Using less

Planting of forests on lands that have previously contained forests but that have been converted to some other us

Able to be replaced or replenished, either by the earth's natural processes or by human action. Air, water, and forests are often considered to be example of renewable resources.

Refuse Another name for waste

renewable energy
Known as green or environmentally-friendly energy, renewable energy comes from natural sources that won't run out. These include the wind, the sun, the waves and biofuels such as wood, manure or flaxseed oil

renewable resource
Resources exist in the earth that are non renewable because we are taking them away and using them at a much faster rate than they were formed. Examples are copper, aluminum, coal, and oil.

Rewilding Restoring the habitat for natural species

To fix

An ongoing process by which plants and animals take in oxygen and give out carbon dioxide

use something another time; see earth matters



sanitary landfill
A solid waste disposal area that protects the environment from leachate

A land which is without trees but with much grass either tall or short (such as the African savannah)

Plants, such as small trees and shrubs, that usually have many stems, unlike trees which have one main trunk

sea level
The level of the surface of the ocean

second-order consumers
Animals that eat first-order consumers

Having a climate that is dry, but not as dry as a desert

Any process, activity or mechanism which removes a greenhouse gas, an aerosol or a precursor of a greenhouse gas or aerosol from the atmosphere

social group
A small population that lives and travels together and in some ways depends on each other for its well-being

soil erosion
The wearing away of the soil by wind or water

solar energy

Energy from the sun

solar radiation
Radiation emitted by the Sun.

A mixture made by dissolving a substance in a liquid, such as water

Southern Hemisphere
The area of the earth below the equator

southern temperate zone
The region between latitudes 23.5¡S and 66.5¡S

A group of similar and related organisms

stern review
In 2006, economist Sir Nicholas Stern published a report - The Stern Review - on the economics of climate change.

Tiny pores on the surface of plant leaves that can open and close to take in and give out water vapor

Clouds which are produced by stable air and looks like an even blanket

Stratus clouds which produce a steady rainfall

The volume of water that moves over a designated point over a fixed period of time.

subcanopy layer
A forest's third layer, formed by the leaves and branches of shorter trees under the canopy layer

sublime climate change
The change in the climate caused by global warming. see sublime climate change

succulent plants
Plants that have thick, fleshy leaves or stems for storing water

sunlight zone
The upper 488 feet (150 m) of the ocean, where sunlight penetrates and where about 90 percent of all marine life live

An organism, such as coral or the Portuguese man-of-war, that appears to be one organism, but in fact is a number of colonial animals joined together

To keep in existence; maintain. To supply with necessities or nourishment; provide for earth also sustainable living.


third order consumers
Animals that eat first- and/or second-order consumers

threatened species
Wild species that is still abundant in its natural range but is likely to become endangered because of a decline in numbers.

top consumer
An organism at the top of a food chain

trace gas
Any one of the less common gases found in the Earth's atmosphere.

The loss of water into the atmosphere through the stomata of plants

Items that are discarded also waste.

tree line
The height on a mountain above which the climate is too cold for trees to grow

tropical rain forest
A forest that gains more water from precipitation than it loses through evaporation. Located in the tropical zone and having an average temperature between 70¡ and 85¡F (21¡ and 29¡C) and average yearly rainfall of more than 80 inches (200 cm)

tropical zone
The region between latitudes 23.5¡S and 23.5¡N

A treeless biome mainly in the north polar areas that has long frigid winters and brief summers and where grasses, mosses, lichen, low shrubs, and a few flowering plants survive

twilight zone
The shadowy area of the ocean, extending from the bottom of the sunlight zone down to about 3,000 feet ( l ,000 m), where plants cannot grow and where animals are less numerous and smaller

High-energy rays of sunlight


To reuse (discarded objects or material) in such a way as to create a product of a higher quality or value than the original.

urban heat island
Buildup of heat in the atmosphere above an urban area.

The solar system beyond our world; see universe

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